Saturday, October 30, 2010

I'd Need A Savior

Note: Please turn off my music playlist at the bottom of this page before starting the video.

We all need a Savior.  I wish people would know/realize that before it's too late.  I can never thank Jesus enough for His amazing love and sacrifice for me!  I will never stop proclaiming His love and His salvation to others. 
"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:9-10)
"She (Mary) will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)
"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: The Sixty Minute Family by Rob Parsons

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The Sixty Minute Family: An Hour to Transform Your Relationships for Ever

Lion UK (July 9, 2010)

***Special thanks to Cat Hoort, Trade Marketing Manager, Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





Rob Parsons is an international speaker on family issues and the author of many best-sellers including The Heart of Success and The 60-Minute Father. Over half a millon people have attended his live seminars.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.95
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Lion UK (July 9, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0745953832
ISBN-13: 978-0745953830

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Prologue

The Hospital Waiting Room

It is midnight. I am in the waiting room of my local hospital. I’ve brought a neighbour in because he’s had a fall, and I’ve now been sitting for over four hours on plastic chairs that were designed to cause as much discomfort as possible to every part of my anatomy.

I get up, stretch my legs, and wander across to the coffee machine. A young woman of perhaps twenty-four years old is there. She is obviously distraught and drops the coins she is trying to feed into the machine. I suggest she take a seat, pick up the money, and get her coffee for her.

We start chatting and she tells me that her father is seriously ill, and there is some doubt that he will make it through the night. As we sip our drinks I ask her to tell me about him.

She brushes a tear from her face, smiles, and says, “My mum and dad were brilliant - our family life was wonderful. I didn’t know how good it was until I went to college and heard my friends talk about how life was in their homes. It wasn’t that we didn’t argue – we did, lots of times. We were all so very different. I was the rebellious one. I have two sisters and a brother. Sometimes we’d practically come to blows. But we laughed a lot and always knew in our hearts that when it came down to it, we’d be there for each other.”

I say, “It sounds like a great family.”

She nods. “Dad was from a poor home, but he did really well in his career. In fact in the early years of my parents’ marriage he put in such long hours at his office they nearly broke up. After that he changed. It wasn’t that he didn’t continue to work hard, but unlike previously, he was always there when we needed him. I’d be in a school play and suddenly I’d see him slip in at the back. He was sometimes a little late, but he hated missing any of that stuff; it was the same with my brother’s football matches. After he and Mum went through that hard time it seemed his priorities changed.”

I ask, “Is your mum still alive?”

“Oh yes,” she says. “She’s up in the ward with him now...”

I say, “Tell me more…”


It was after two in the morning when we stopped talking, and it had all been about her family life. She told me of holidays and Christmases, of good times and harder ones, and of conflicts that were finally resolved with tears and forgiveness. She spoke of silly things they’d done – like giving each other names from the Jungle Book film for a whole week. She said, “The only problem with that was that we were all teenagers!”

She said, “My mother always used to say the same thing whenever we’d done something silly together, or scary (like when we went abseiling once and my sister got stuck upside down), or even when we’d come through a tough time. She would say, “We made a memory.”

She swallowed hard and I said, “You have lots of them, don’t you?”

“Yes,” she said. “I have hundreds.” She smiled. “Well, I’d better go back up to the ward now. Thanks for talking to me. It helped.”

I eventually left the hospital at nine a.m. As I was approaching my car I noticed a young couple in the parking bay next to mine. They were gingerly loading an obviously brand-new baby into their vehicle, together with various bouquets of flowers. I shouted, “Congratulations!” The father smiled at me.

As I got into my car I found myself thinking of the young woman at the coffee machine and wishing that her father could have shared some of the lessons he’d learned with these new parents at the start of their family life together. And as I let my mind wander, I felt I could almost hear the older man talk of things that make families strong: the need to make time for each other; the power of laughter; the creating of homes where forgiveness is always on the heels of conflict; and the ways to make a memory.

For over twenty years I have travelled the world and listened to people tell me the stories of their families. From Moscow to Melbourne, from Durban to Doncaster, they have shared with me what made their families strong - and sometimes what destroyed them.

My own children are now at the start of their own family life. If they let me - a big if! - what lessons would I love to share with them? Perhaps things I wish I’d done differently - what seemed to work and what didn’t. But these are not just my lessons – they are gleaned from talking to families across the world, sometimes listening to people who often said, “I wish I’d known that earlier in my family life.” So, whether my children ever read them or not - and acknowledging that somebody else’s list may be quite different - here, at least, are my ten life lessons for a strong family life.

This is a “Sixty Minute” book, which means that if you are quick, you can read it in an hour. An hour? What can be said of value that can be read in less than four thousand seconds? Well, something at least... And I know this: whatever size and shape your family is - mother and father, single parent mum or dad, stepfamily - this short book contains things that have the potential to make your family stronger and perhaps even save it from break-up. I’ve known families whose relationships were changed, saved even, by putting into practice just one of the lessons in this book.

If, at the moment, you are going through a good time in your family life, I hope these lessons will make it even better. However, you may be going through a difficult period right now. In my work I see too much of real life to believe there are easy answers to the problems of families in pain. But I hope you will still find something that will help – even if it’s simply the realization that whatever you are experiencing, you are not alone.
My Thoughts and Review:
The title of this book suggests that it can be read within an hour. Well, I must be a slow reader because it took me over an hour for sure :). It may be a thin book but it is packed with good advice. The author shares 10 life lessons that he has learned and gleaned from talking with families across the world. I appreciate the real life examples, including the author's own experiences. He reminds parents to make time for family, to take time to talk and listen, to encourage our loved ones, to grasp the benefits of traditions, to value the extended family, etc. Action Points at the end of each chapter are practical tips that I find very useful. "Trauma in the Maternity Ward" made me smile. It was funny and serious at the same time. The relationship and interaction between the author's wife and her mom made me cry. The story about marbles in a jar made me think. In short, time (quality and quantitiy) is essential for building a strong family life; there is no other way to go about it. If you have an hour to spare, read this book and learn how to improve your relationships in your family. It will be a good investment of your time :).

Friday, October 22, 2010

DVD Review: Rust

Rust
Note: Please turn off my music playlist at the bottom of this page before starting the trailer.


A Journey Home, A Faith Renewed.

Jimmy, a former minister, who is struggling with his faith comes back to his hometown, Kipling.  His childhood friend, Travis, confesses to setting a fire that kills a well-liked, well-respected Christian family of four.  Jimmy cannot imagine that Travis is capable of such a heartless crime.  He is determined to find the truth behind the tragedy.  This is a fantastic mystery that is uplifting, faith-building, and inspiring.  The two main characters, Jimmy (played by Corbin Bernsen) and Travis (played by Lloyd Allen Warner), deliver powerful performances!  (By the way, my husband and I think Corbin Bernsen somewhat resembles Gene Hackman :)).  The story is sad, beautiful, and touching.  Faith...family...friendship!  I love the behind-the-scenes featurettes, too.  Rust definitely turned out to be a shining gem!

FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/rustmovie?ref=ts

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

FIRST Wild Card Tour: A Million Ways to Die: The Only Way to Live by Rick James

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


A Million Ways to Die: The Only Way to Live

David C. Cook (October 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Rick James is a graduate of Syracuse University (BFA) and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.Div.). He has served on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ for more than twenty-one years and is currently responsible for writing, producing, and marketing ministry resources to staff and students. He also serves as an adjunct to Research & Development as well as a major conference speaker. Rick has written most of the ministry’s recent material including Bible study and discipleship curriculum, devotionals, books, magazines, apologetics, and evangelistic tools. A Million Ways to Die is his third project which has been published outside of Campus Crusade. Rick and his wife, Katie, have three children and live in West Chester, Pennsylvania.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (October 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434702049
ISBN-13: 978-1434702043

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Better Off Dead


As the story goes, in 1972, a young Egyptian businessman lost his wristwatch, valued at roughly $11,000. That’s some wristwatch. It’s amazing that anyone who found it in the rough-and-tumble city of Cairo would have attempted to return it, and it’s shocking who did.


The city of Cairo has its own unique version of poverty called the Garbage City: a city in the sense that an ant farm is a city. The population of this slum lies somewhere between fifteen and thirty thousand people, though no one really knows for sure. Its name comes from the fact that it is both a garbage dump and home for the city’s garbage workers. Each morning at dawn some seven thousand garbage collectors on horse carts leave for Cairo, where they collect the many tons of garbage left behind by the city’s seventeen million waste-producing citizens. After their day’s work they return to the Garbage City, bringing the trash back to their homes, sorting out what’s useful, and living in and among what isn’t. In Muslim countries there are certain religious restrictions on sifting through refuse, so the inhabitants of the Garbage City are either nonreligious or of some kind of Christian heritage, typically Coptic. These are the poorest of the poor—outcasts among outcasts.


As you can imagine, it would be unthinkable to have such a valuable timepiece returned by a member of Garbage City. Yet when the wealthy businessman lost his watch, an old garbageman dressed in rags returned it, saying, “My Christ told me to be honest until death.”


Because of this act of obedience-faith-death-insanity, the Egyptian businessman later told a reporter, “I didn’t know Christ at the time, but I told [the garbageman] that I saw Christ in him. I told [him], ‘Because of what you have done and your great example, I will worship the Christ you are worshiping.’”


The man, true to his word, studied the Bible and grew in his faith. Soon he and his wife began ministering to Egypt’s physically and spiritually poor, leading thousands to Christ. In 1978, he was ordained by the Coptic Orthodox Church and is now known as Father Sama’an. Father Sama’an leads the largest church of believers in the entire Middle East; each week some ten thousand believers meet together in a large cave outside the Garbage City.


For this garbageman, returning the watch was not martyrdom, but it certainly was a kind of death. I’m sure everything in him wanted to keep that watch—everything except his heart, which wanted to keep Christ.1


In John 12:24 Jesus states that “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Beginning with his own death, what Jesus is describing here is the secret ingredient of kingdom growth. Death. Death is the fertilizer, the turf builder. The kingdom sprouts out of our daily choices to “die to ourselves.” You plant an $11,000 Rolex in the dirt and out of it grows the largest church in the Middle East. Our willingness to die to ourselves and carry our crosses every day indicates the mechanism of personal transformation and evangelistic growth.


This is not mysticism, poetics, or philosophical abstraction. This is reality. It’s as daily and as tangible as doing the dishes for someone when you don’t feel like doing the dishes for someone. Every act of dying, done in faith, generates life in some way whether we see it, recognize it, or simply take it by faith. And how do we spot the many possible ways that life might emerge through our little deaths? We can find these opportunities in just about anything our flesh tries to resist.


A COSMIC RESTRUCTURING


In 1962, Thomas Kuhn wrote a book titled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In it Kuhn describes a fundamental change in basic assumptions, something so significant that it creates a whole new paradigm. Most people don’t remember the book, but for the last fifty years we have been haunted by the phrase Kuhn coined, the ubiquitous “paradigm shift.”


Since then, anything and everything has become a “paradigm shift.” The Gillette Trac II razor was a new paradigm that “revolutionized” shaving; the Clapper changed our paradigm for turning off lights; the Chia Pet changed our gardening paradigm.


Many, many, paradigms; lots and lots of shifting.


Virginia Woolf famously wrote, “On or about December 1910, human character changed.”2 She was heralding a paradigm shift, but as the phrase “paradigm shift” had yet to be invented, she simply uttered the aforementioned phrase.


Woolf referred to the advent of postmodernism, modern claims to the title notwithstanding. Why 1910? In 1910 Einstein debuted his theories of relativity; Nietzsche expounded his philosophy of perspectivism; Picasso painted the multi-perspective cubist masterpiece Les Demoiselles d’Avignon; and writers like Joyce, Stein, Proust, and Woolf began shattering the objective narrative of literature. Relativism and subjectivism were blooming everywhere.


This truly was a paradigm shift, challenging commonly held notions of objective truth and reality. We certainly don’t view the world the same as those who lived before the turn of the twentieth century or, for that matter, give our children names like Rutledge or dress them like Howard Taft.


There have been many paradigm shifts, real, claimed, and imagined. Even now we are attempting to wrap our minds around globalization, learning to see the flatness of the earth. But no idea, concept, philosophy, or paradigm can deliver on Woolf’s claim. Human nature didn’t change on, about, or anywhere near 1910—only our thoughts about it did. Our paradigm shifted. Reality didn’t budge. What Jesus brought to this world was not simply a new paradigm. Rather, circa 33 AD the very nature of life and death changed, not simply our thoughts about it.


Of course there are a million new paradigms, perspectives, and thoughts that flow from this fact, but this is not a new way of seeing reality. This is a new reality, a total cosmic restructuring.


THE WILD WEST


Here in America we see the new life of the gospel more clearly than most—at least we seem to see more of it. It’s difficult to drive down the freeway or turn on the radio or TV without seeing or hearing an offer for this new and everlasting life. Most American non-believers know at least someone who’s experienced this new life and are, therefore, privy to a personal demonstration. Not so elsewhere.


We are also witnesses of the societal implications of this new life. We can see where politics, human rights, freedoms, social conscience, education, and medicine have been touched by the Christian view of life. Christians might assume there are social implications to the gospel, but if they were to live in a Muslim country, they certainly wouldn’t observe any.


Yet as much as our philosophy on life has been enriched by a Christian worldview, our understanding and apprehension of death has diminished. We live in one of the few places in the world where Christians aren’t persecuted (generally speaking), and martyrdom is as likely as contracting malaria or Ebola. Add to this the unprecedented historical anomaly that since the beginning of recorded time, no people—except this current generation—have ever lived with a mind-set that ninety years of age is the horizon of human life. Not even remotely. Through wealth, medicine, technology, food, and cosmetics, we think of and relate to death in the abstract, as something requiring life insurance. This perspective is alien to Scripture, and it’s alien to the majority of humanity.


And yet the symbol of our faith is a man nailed to a cross. It could have been something happier, like the yellow Walmart smiley face, but it’s not. More than lepers and mustard seeds, death is the dominant New Testament metaphor for the Christian life. We were dead in our transgressions, and death was at work in us, but then Jesus died for us; now we are dead to sin but alive to God, and we must die daily (though we will never die); and yet we look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and on and on, as if Sylvia Plath had some hand in the writing.


And all this is just on the level of illustrations and metaphors. If we were to look at the New Testament from a historical or narrative perspective, it’s immediately striking that all the main characters die. We get to know Paul a bit through his letters, but even as he writes, he’s in prison awaiting execution. It seems like we’re just starting to connect with Peter when he’s crucified, and by the end of Christianity’s opening season, John’s the only one remaining of the original cast.


What happens in the New Testament?


Everyone dies.


To those of us living in a civilized superpower, all this talk about death is strangely foreign—something primitive, something out of National Geographic like foot binding, neck stretching, or packing a gourd into the lower lip like a pinch of Skoal.


My daughter is doing missions work in East Asia this summer, and the cultural difference that has struck her the most is the mentality that one simply leaves something—a rat, a cow, a person, whatever—where it dies. It’s like in the rural South, where folks leave their car or tractor to rust in the spot it stopped working. I’m not saying this is a healthy view of death or that throwing a body into the Ganges River is more biblical than hosting an extravagant celebration-of-life ceremony. My point is that death is much more integrated into the fabric of life in almost every other place on the planet—and everyplace else in Scripture.


While we may not need to be tutored on the abundant life of the gospel, we need to be reacquainted with its more than abundant death. But don’t let this scare you; death isn’t quite the same since Christ consumed it. It’s been tamed and domesticated—it’s the bee without the sting. We no longer serve it—it serves us.


REBRANDING


When I think of Bayer aspirin, I think of families, happy babies, the smell of Vicks VapoRub, staying home from school, and watching I Love Lucy reruns. This is quite remarkable considering the fact that the seemingly benign corporation was, at one time, part of the German pharmaceutical company I. G. Farben. Farben was disbanded in 1952 for its close association with the Nazi Party and active participation in war crimes. Farben had manufactured the gas for Nazi gas chambers and was the chief supplier of the toxic gas Zyklon B. Today, Bayer is obviously a different company, a company that seeks to save lives, not exterminate them. But can you imagine the task set before the PR and marketing departments to re-brand and reshape our perceptions of this company? To help us see it as a source of life and not death?


This, I’m afraid, is what we’re up against here. Death has earned quite a bad name for itself—and, I might add, it’s well deserved. What Madison Avenue delivery could possibly change our perspective and make us want to die? Could we say that it’s been reformulated; that it’s not the cold, tasteless, soggy mush we remember; that it’s new and improved; that it’s a heart-healthy, cholesterol-friendly, high-fiber, reduced-fat version of death; that it comes with an extra scoop of raisins in every box?


As you can tell, re-branding death is beyond my powers of persuasion. But it is not beyond the power of Scripture, which makes an outrageous marketing claim: that just as green is the new black, and small is the new big, death is the new life. And this, as you’ll see, is not just a catchy jingle.


DEATH: NOW THE LEADING CAUSE OF LIFE


Hebrews tells us that Jesus suffered death so that by the grace of God He might “taste death for everyone.” The writer of Hebrews defaults to what appears to be Scripture’s metaphor of choice when speaking of death and resurrection—digestion. I will try to follow suit in reviewing the events of Jesus’ resurrection.


There are food chains everywhere in nature: The grasshopper eats the grass; the rat eats the grasshopper; the snake eats the rat; and the hawk eats the snake. What’s true of all food chains is that hawks and people and lions don’t really occupy the top rung. Death is, in fact, at the top of the food chain; death devours everything but is devoured by nothing.


The resurrection changed this. When Jesus rose from the dead, death was “swallowed up in victory” and “swallowed up by life.”


Throughout His ministry, Jesus warned of and predicted the dramatic change coming to the natural order: “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40). Jonah, if you remember, was swallowed but not digested.


As Jesus was placed inside the open mouth of the tomb, He entered through the jaws of death. Picture “the cords of the grave coiled around [him]” (Ps. 18:5), wrangling him down like a tongue. “The grave enlarges its appetite and opens its mouth” (Isa. 5:14). Death ingests Him, sliding lower and lower to the “lowest pit, in the darkest depths,” to the very bowels of death.


But the Holy One cannot be digested, for “his body will not see decay” (Ps. 16:10). Regurgitation is the only option for that which is inedible. The Son is spit out just as the whale “vomited” Jonah back to the living. The stone rolls back, the mouth of the grave opens, and death forfeits its meal. Death cannot eat life. The empty tomb is death with its teeth kicked out.


In communion, our symbolic celebration of this victory, we swallow Christ (His body and blood), just as His life swallows us. We drink His blood, represented by wine, a fermented drink that was extracted from death and decomposition.


When Scripture declares that death has been swallowed by life, it is declaring a massive reversal of the natural order. Apart from Christ we deteriorate, body and soul. Death picks away at us little by little until the day its appetite swells to consume us whole.


As believers we experience the reverse: “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Cor. 4:11). The Christian life is a progressive march, not to death but to resurrection, where Christ slowly transforms us until the day His resurrection consumes us whole. Christ’s resurrection power animates the life of the believer so that our trials and sufferings are continuously being consumed, metabolized, and transformed into new life. Resurrection—not death—is the reigning power within us so that “though outwardly we are wasting away … inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). The hands of time are moving backward, and the sands in the hourglass pouring upward.


If all this sounds too flowery and poetic, here it is a bit more bluntly: The indwelling of God’s Spirit turned our life into a piñata. Now, the more you beat the thing, the more Christ’s life showers out. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). If life is on the inside, there’s everything to be gained by having our lives turned inside out.


DEATH: NOW AVAILABLE IN FUN SIZE


With the best of intentions, preachers and teachers continue to attempt to inspire us to see the importance and relevance of death to the Christian life. We’ve heard countless stories of persecuted brothers and sisters around the world as well as tales of missionary heroics and sacrifice.


I can recall a sermon I gave once, a sermon laced with quotes from the journal of David Brainerd. Brainerd was a missionary to the Delaware Indians during the eighteenth century. He lived in the wilderness and slept on the ground, all the while dying of tuberculosis. Brainerd was Superman. Brainerd would preach, cough up his lungs, pass out, and then get up and preach another sermon. I tried to cast vision for a cross-bearing commitment to Christ, but it didn’t work. “Remember David Brainerd” had the relevance of “Remember the Alamo” and the triviality of “Remember the Titans.” Those listening to my message shared as much in common with the lifestyle of David Brainerd as they did with the lifestyle of Madonna.


It felt like I was a parent telling his child to eat all the food on his plate because there are children starving in other parts of the world. Has this ever prompted a single child to mop up the remains of his dinner? It seems like this argument should work, but the gap is so big and the cultural distance so far that it cannot be mentally crossed. Now, if you could scrape your plate into a box and next-day ship it to the starving children, well that would be different, wouldn’t it? That would bridge the gap.


I think this is why our stories of martyrs and missionaries sometimes fail to motivate. What we are doing, in effect, is inflating the concept of death, sacrifice, and martyrdom, making them as big, as bold, and as graphic as possible in hopes of shocking people awake. But see, it does the opposite. The more horrible the stories, the more gruesome the deaths, the more courageous the martyrs, the more sacrificial the evangelists—the less like us these martyrs seem. We end up creating more distance between us and them, between us and death.


In focusing on these concepts as macro-events, as monumental moments of extinction, termination, and glory, we wrongly elevate these people as a superior class of Christians.


The creation of a Christian upper class automatically places us in a lower bracket, and we assume the discipleship requirements of such a bracket to be far less. With the lowering of expectations comes the lowering of ambition. Who can compete with a super martyr? They’re the pros, and we can only hope to caddy for them. This makes what should be the normative life of cross-bearing seem unattainable, something for an elite class of ancient Christians, super leaders, and third-world believers.


The Scriptures do not attempt to inflate the concept of death. Rather, they seek to show its relevance to our daily lives and spiritual growth. The Scriptures challenge our cramped and claustrophobic view of the grave and lead us to see death as a process, inviting us to embrace it in its many varieties: death to self, death to the world, death to our pride, and so on. The Scriptures democratize death, requiring everyone to carry a cross and be a martyr. The Bible focuses on the concept, the practice, and the process—the small d of death—far more than on the capitol D of Death—death as termination.


The small d of death is critical to every Christian. While we may never die in our attempts to witness, our reputation might. Everyone has an ego, and the death of pride is a martyrdom to be shared by every Christian. Everyone can experience the death of a dream, a job, a hope, a relationship, an ego, or a reputation. We must all die to ourselves. There is no need to push or shove or wait in line; we will all get a chance to die.


This expanded meaning of death is clearly what’s meant by the Scripture’s rather elastic use of the concept, as we are admonished to “take up our cross,” “die to sin,” “die to the world,” and so many other deaths beyond the funeral variety. The death envisioned is not a single tombstone, it’s Arlington cemetery—row upon row of graves. To see the smaller, daily opportunities to die is as important as seeing the daily tokens of God’s love and faithfulness that He bestows on us.


DEATH: OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME


While neither God nor Scripture ignores or downplays the pain of our suffering and trials, they are unwavering in presenting it to us as an opportunity to be embraced, not a threat from which to hide. A thoughtful examination of a passage in 2 Corinthians explains why: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Cor. 4:10–12).


Let me rephrase this passage with explanation, expansion, and commentary so you can see the concepts in another way:


I endure many hardships. But I think of my trials like “little deaths” because I see how God resurrects, or brings life out of, them. You, Corinthians, are the ones who benefit from this, so I don’t mind if God uses my life and faith as an engine to convert those deaths into life. In fact, once you realize that trials are fuel, or firewood, to be burned and transformed into life, you no longer run from them; you embrace them. This is why I rejoice in the severity of my trials, persevere in them, and embrace them by faith. I never think, “Oh, no … another trial.” I actually think, “Bring it on; it’s just more logs for the fire.”


It is no doubt human nature to avoid pain; it’s definitely my nature. I dare you to spring out of bed every morning like it were Christmas Day, anticipating what new deaths lie ahead and how God will transform them into life. It’s not a normal way of looking at life, but then again neither is returning from a torture session “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41).


If Mr. Thomas Kuhn were still alive, I believe he would call this a paradigm shift, a fundamentally different way of viewing life. In fact, when a perspective is so mind-altering and counterintuitive, we do not call it insight, but insanity. It’s not just a different way of thinking, it’s too different—odd different. Apart from faith, James’ sentiment, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2), would have to be seen as gibberish, as would the affections expressed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he said, “Can you sense that I have now a terrible longing for my own suffering?”


However, when you begin to view death as an opportunity for more and greater life, here and now, as well as in the age to come, it changes everything. It reorients us entirely.


In the past year I’ve had the opportunity to share the gospel with something like ten thousand college students, with several hundred of those coming to Christ. This outreach to universities was launched from a book I wrote titled Jesus Without Religion. I can’t prove this, but I don’t think the fruitfulness of the book is necessarily tied to the book itself.


The book took me six months to write, and the very day after completing it, my computer crashed. As it turned out, the “heads” on the hard drive were cracked, and nothing was salvageable. This, at least, is what the repairman told me; I know nothing of the heads, hands, or feet of a hard drive, nothing of basic hard drive anatomy at all. This would have been the perfect time to pull out the backup copy that I’d saved—if there had been a backup copy. But I had nothing; the book was gone, dead and buried, its remains sprinkled throughout the cyber universe—from pixels it came and to pixels it returned.


Yet this perspective of death presented in Scripture ultimately led me to a sense of anticipation. Here, in the teaching of Jesus and the disciples, death (the death of a hope, dream, goal, or six months worth of work) doesn’t mean dead—it means the opportunity for resurrection.28 A MILLION WAYS TO DIE


To give thanks and praise in such circumstances is one way in which death is transformed into life. The blackened logs of death consumed by faith’s flame are transformed into wisps of praise drifting upward. Death is a consumable fuel for life, and any experience of death can yield spiritual life if it is embraced by faith. Giving thanks and praise is simply one method of transference.



I do not remember if I gave thanks. I might have sworn. But after regaining my spiritual equilibrium, I did start on page one, with word one, and with considerable anticipation that God would use the resurrected rewrite like Lazarus, drawing many to Himself.


I can’t prove the connection in this particular case, but I know it’s there. I know it’s God’s resurrection power working through a corpse. (Though in my enthusiasm for the metaphor, I have just called my book a corpse, which can’t be good for future sales).


It certainly makes sense to me why an unbeliever would run from death. But for a believer, to run from death is, in reality, to run from life. This is why we embrace death and consider it pure joy in whatever form we encounter it. Death is no longer a dead end or detour to life; it’s a fuel stop. Death, like gasoline, is combusted and converted into mileage, enabling us to get to our destination—the light and life of the great city glowing over the horizon.


©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. A Million Ways to Die by Rick James. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Seven Minute Difference

Have you ever wanted a change, dreamed of a change, or even expected a change but nothing has changed?  Are you the kind of person who has made New Year's resolutions year after year but has never been able to keep them?  This book, The Seven Minute Difference: Small Steps to Big Changes, by Allyson Lewis is for you.  She offers a simple concept that can bring the results you desire.  Although the book is written with business-related people in mind, anyone can benefit from it.  The author points out that the average corporate executive only has a 7-minute attention span and that she came up with her purpose in life in 7 minutes.  The key here is not the 7 minute but the actions/activities you can complete in small chunks of time.  She calls these, "micro-actions" (a.k.a. baby steps/ bite-sized actions). This book will help you discover your purpose and passions and also help you recognize your goals, priorities, strengths, & dreams and show you how to use those to your advantage.  I like the Seven Minute ideas and micro-actions suggested throughout the book because they are easy (doable) yet effective if put into action.  I'm glad to see that the author puts her faith in God and her relationship with her family above work and wealth.  The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner is really cool.  It's a hands-on tool that will help you be more intentional about how you spend your time and how you move closer to your goals by your actions.  It aims to help you prioritize, organize, and simplify so that you can live the life you want.  Ready for a real change?  Remember...don't change just for changes' sake.  Only change for improvement...for growth.  To learn more about the 7 Minute Life System, check out http://www.the7minutelifesystem.com/.

~I was given the book and the daily planner by Team Buzzplant for my review.  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Swagbucks TV

I've mentioned before but now is a great time to mention again: Swagbucks.com is very cool.  Swagbucks.com is the site where I've earned my Amazon gift cards (by trading in my Swag Bucks) just for searching the web (which I do often anyway). If you want to check it out, click this link. Let me know if you have any questions about it; I'd be happy to answer them.  Take a look at the cool promotion below.

Today Swagbucks.com is introducing Swagbucks TV, the new home for rewarding video content on the web.  Find fun, fresh, and original video entertainment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on topics ranging from Health&Beauty, to Technology, Sports, Nature, and more!  In addition to all the great content, you'll be eligible to earn Swag Bucks periodically as you watch videos, with multiple earning opportunities and values every single day! And, for the first two weeks, they'll be extending our referral matching program to Swagbucks TV.  That means that you'll earn matching Swag Bucks every time your referrals earn on Swagbucks TV!  (Note: you will receive a bonus at the end of the two week period which contains the full total of all your matching TV bucks) There will even be special Swag Codes every day which reward people for answering trivia questions about the videos featured on the site.

In addition, the promotional code SBTVisOnTheAir will get you 30 bonus Swag Bucks when you sign up through my referral link. This code is only valid for new users who are signing up for the first time. The code is valid until 11:59pm PDT on Friday, October 22nd.  Have fun collecting Swag Bucks :)!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday's Fave Five #28

It's time for another Friday's Fave Five (hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell the Story).

My Fave Five this week include...
1. Birthday Party for our sons (one turning 12 and the other turning 9) this past Saturday. We all had a blast! Fun games...yummy food...great company :)!

2. We played Super Scrabble on Wednesday. Super fun! I was super stoked on being able to play all 7 tiles: "return(e)r" :).

3. Beautiful commercial from Thailand (my birth country): Disconnect to connect 

4. I enjoyed watching two wonderful Christian DVDs this week. The first one is The Way Home starring Dean Cain.  You can read my review here.  The other one is a children's DVD called Really Woolly Kids Trusting in the Shepherd.  You can read my review and enter the DVD giveaway here.

5. Open Doors provides the 2010 prayer kit as a free resource to equip and inspire you, your church, and/or small groups to unite for this powerful time of prayer for the persecuted Christians. The International Day of Prayer is November 14th.  Click here to request an International Day of Prayer (IDOP) kit.

Note: Please turn off my music playlist at the bottom of this page before starting the video.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Eat This and Live! For Kids

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Siloam; 1 edition (September 7, 2010)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Don Colbert, MD, is board-certified in family practice and anti-aging medicine and has received extensive training in nutritional and preventative medicine. He is the author of numerous books, including two New York Times best sellers, Dr. Colbert’s “I Can Do This” Diet and The Seven Pillars of Health.

Joseph A. Cannizzaro, MD, has practiced pediatric medicine for thirty years with specialties in developmental pediatrics, nutrition, and preventive medicine. He is the founder and managing pediatrician for the Pediatricians Care Unit in Longwood, Florida.

Visit the author's website.

Here's a video about the adult version, Eat This and Live!:



Product Details:

List Price: $17.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Siloam; 1 edition (September 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616381388
ISBN-13: 978-1616381387

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


EATING HABITS OF

THE NEXT GENERATION


Eating Habits and Our Future



How Has an entire generation of hefty eaters changed the face of the world? By starting young. And once again, this unflattering trend originated in America. In the United States, 17.1 percent of our children and adolescents―that's 2.5 million youth―are now reported to be either overweight or obese.


As a result of childhood obesity, we are seeing a dramatic rise in type 2 diabetes throughout the country. And because of the connection obesity has with hypertension, hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), and heart disease, experts are predicting a dramatic rise in heart disease as our children become adults. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) reports that overweight teens stand a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight adults, and that is increased to 80 percent

if at least one parent is overweight or obese. Because of that, heart disease and type 2 diabetes are expected to begin at a much earlier age in those who fail to beat the odds.2 Overall, this is the first generation of children that is not expected to live as long as their parents, and they will be more likely to suffer from disease and illness.


If you do not take charge of your food choices for yourself, at least do it for your children. Children follow by example, by mirroring the behavior of their parents. Don't tell them to make healthy eating choices without doing it yourself. I'm sure most of you love your children and are good parents. But ask yourself: Do you love your children enough to make the necessary lifestyle changes? Do you love them enough to educate them on what foods to eat and what foods to avoid? Do you love them enough to keep junk food out of your house and instead make healthy food more available? Do you love them enough to exercise regularly and lead by example?


If you answered yes to those questions, it is important that you not only take action right now but also that you make changes for them that last a lifetime.


But let me be honest; this is not an easy fight when it involves your children's lives. As the little boxes of information on this page illustrate, the culture in which your children are growing up is saturated with junk food that is void of nutrition but high in toxic fats, sugars, highly processed carbohydrates, and food additives. Consuming these foods has become part of childhood.


You can do it, but you must be prepared to stand strong! That's why I am ecstatic that you have picked up this book. I believe you now hold a key to truly changing your life and your children's lives.




Stand Strong!

If you're planning on taking a stand against this garbage-in, garbage-out culture, expect some opposition from every front. During the course of a year, the typical American child will watch more than thirty thousand television commercials, with many of these advertisements pitching fast-food or junk food as delicious “must-eats.” For years, fast food franchises have enticed children into their restaurants with kids' meal toys, promotional giveaways, and elaborate playgrounds. It has obviously worked for McDonald's: about 90 percent of American children between the ages of three and nine set foot in one each month.


It's All Part of the Plan

Fast-food establishments spend billions of dollars on research and marketing. They know exactly what they are doing and how to push your child's hot button. They understand the powerful impact certain foods can have. That is why comfort foods often do more than just fill the stomach; they bring about memories of the fair, playgrounds, toys, backyard birthday bashes, Fourth of July When your kids can't visit the Golden parties, childhood friends . . . the list goes on. Advertisers have keyed into this and products―most of which are brought learned to use the sight of food to stimulate the same fond childhood memories.


School Cafeteria or Fast Food Franchise?

When your kids can't visit the Golden Arches, it comes to them. Fast-food products―most of which are brought in by franchises―are sold in about 30 percent of public high school cafeterias and many elementary cafeterias.



An Alarming Trend in Children's Health



By teaching your children healthy eating habits, you can keep them at a healthy weight. Also, the eating habits your children pick up when they are young will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle when they are adults. The challenges we face are imposing. The state of children's health today is, according to recent measures, at its most dire. The rise in rates of complex, chronic childhood disorders has been well profiled. Here are some concrete examples of the current state of children's health:


Cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease in children.5

Obesity is epidemic.

Fifty percent of children are overweight.6

Diabetes now affects 1 in every 500 children. Of those children newly diagnosed with diabetes, the percentage with type 2 (“adult-onset”) has risen from less than 5 percent to nearly 50 percent in a ten-year period.

Asthma is the most prevalent chronic disease affecting American children, leading to 15 million missed days of school per year. Since 1980, the percentage of children with asthma has almost tripled.

Approximately 1 in 25 American children now suffer from food allergies.

From 1997 to 2007, the prevalence of reported food allergy increased 18 percent among children under the age of eighteen years.

One in 6 children is diagnosed with a significant neurodevelopmental disability, including 1 in 12 with ADHD. Autism affects 1 in 150 U.S. children, an extraordinary rise in prevalence.

Babies in one study were noted, at birth, to have an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants present in their umbilical cord blood.


These statistics are sobering indeed, and perhaps the most sobering is the rise in childhood obesity. Why? Obesity plays a part in several other chronic illnesses that are also on the rise among children. And there's an unwelcome side effect―more kids are being put on prescription medications for obesity-related chronic diseases. Across the board, we are witnessing increases in prescriptions for children with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and asthma. There must be a better way.


Top Three Tips for Parents


1. Lead by example. Your child will have an extremely difficult time making healthy eating choices and exercising

regularly if you don't consistently show him or her how.

2. Take baby steps that lead to lasting changes. If your child is overweight, avoid diets that promise instant

3. Take your time as you replace your child's old habits with healthy ones. This goes hand in hand with tip #2.


You're in this for the long haul. It takes time to adapt to a new lifestyle. Be patient as he or she adjusts to the new eating habits and activities that you will be introducing.


What we need now is an absolute paradigm shift. No longer are the “one drug, one disease” solutions of the past appropriate. These are times that demand out-of-the-box thinking. That's where this book can help. If your child is overweight or you want to lower his or her risk of becoming overweight down the road, there are many positive, natural ways you can address the situation. In this book, Dr. Cannizzaro and I provide you with information and ideas to help you help your child.



Understanding Childhood Obesity


Now that we've shared the bad news about the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States, let's make sure you really understand the terms overweight and obese. Many people have a general sense as to how these words are different, yet in recent years the delineation has become clearer. Various health organizations, including the CDC and the National Institutes

of Health (NIH), now officially define these terms using the body mass index (BMI), which factors in a person's weight relative to height. Most of these organizations define an overweight adult (twenty years of age and older) as having a BMI between 25 and 29.9, while an obese adult is anyone who has a BMI of 30 or higher.12 For children and teens, BMI is measured differently, allowing for the normal variations in body composition between boys and girls and at various ages.

For ages two to nineteen, the BMI (or BMI-for-age) is pinpointed on a growth chart to determine the corresponding age- and sex-specific percentile.


· Overweight is defined as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and lower than the 95th percentile.

· Obesity is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex.


BMI is the most widely accepted method used to determine body fat in children and adults because it's easy to measure a person's height and weight. However, while BMI is an acceptable screening tool for initial assessment of body composition, please remember that it is not a direct measure of body fatness. There are other factors that can affect body composition, and your child's doctor can discuss these with you.

If you think your child may be overweight, start by talking to his or her pediatrician. (See the box on the next page for some suggested questions to ask your child's doctor.) After determining your child's BMI and targeting a healthy weight range for your child, make a plan together as a family. It's a good idea to include any regular caregivers in this plan as well. Set a goal for the whole family to get lots of exercise and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Keep reading for more ways to help your

family!


Wondering About Your Child's Weight?


Five Questions to Ask Your Pediatrician


I understand that you probably don't want to talk about the possibility that your child may not be at a healthy weight. To help make this as painless as possible, I recommend asking your doctor the following questions to get the conversation started.


1. What is a healthy weight for my child's height?

Your doctor will use a growth chart to show you how your child is growing and give you a healthy weight range for your child. The doctor may also tell you your child's body mass index (BMI). The BMI uses a person's height and weight to determine the amount of body fat.

2. Is my child's weight putting him or her at risk for any illnesses?

Based on your family history and other factors, your doctor can help you to determine what health risks your child may be facing. Overweight, inactive children with a family history of type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of being diagnosed with the disease. High blood pressure can also occur in overweight children.

3. How much exercise does my child need?

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends at least one hour of exercise a day. Your doctor will be able to suggest specific ways to help your child, such as walking the dog, playing catch instead of video games, and other forms of activity.

4. Does my child need to go on a diet?

Although an overweight child's eating habits will probably need to change, I don't advise using the word diet because it focuses on short-term eating habits that are rarely sustainable for long-term health. Children (and adults) who become chronic dieters are setting themselves up for problems with their metabolism later in life. A healthier approach is to put your whole family on the path to a healthy lifestyle with gradual but permanent changes. The recommendations in this book are a great place to start.

5. How do I talk about weight without hurting my child's feelings?

Your child might be sensitive about his or her weight, especially if he or she is getting teased. Above all, the message must never be, “You're fat,” or “You need to lose weight.” Instead, it should be, “Our family needs to make better choices about eating and being more active so that we all can be healthy.”


Why Food Choices Matter


All men are created equal, but all foods are not! In fact, some food should not be labeled “food” but rather “consumable product” or “edible, but void of nourishment.” Living foods―fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, and nuts―exist in a raw or close-to-raw state and are beautifully packaged in divinely created wrappers called skins and peels. Living foods look robust, healthy, and alive. They have not been bleached, refined or chemically enhanced and preserved. Living foods are plucked, harvested squeezed―not processed, packaged, and put on a shelf.

Dead foods are the opposite. They have been altered in every imaginable way to make them last as long as possible and be as addictive as possible. That usually means the manufacturer adds considerable amounts of sugar and man-made fats that involve taking various oils and heating them to high temperatures so that the nutrients die and become reborn as a deadly, sludgy substance that is toxic to our bodies.

Life breeds life. Death breeds death. When your child eats living foods the enzymes in their pristine state interact with his or her digestive enzymes. The other natural ingredients God put in them―vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants and more―flow into your child's system in their natural state. These living foods were created to cause your child's digestive system, bloodstream, and organs to function at optimum capacity.

Dead food hit your child's body like a foreign intruder. Chemicals, including preservatives, food additives, and bleach agents place a strain on the liver. Toxic man-made fats begin to form in your child's cell-membranes; they become stored as fat in your child's body and form plaque in his or her arteries. Your child's body does its best to harvest the tiny traces of good from these deadly foods, but in the end he or she is undernourished and overweight.

If you want your child to be a healthy, energetic person rather than someone bouncing between all-you-can-eat buffets and fast-food restaurants, take his or her eating habits seriously. Now is the time to help your son or daughter make the change to living foods.


Isn't it Really Just Genetics?

For every obese person, there is a story behind the excessive weight gain. Growing up, I would often hear it said of an obese person that she was just born fat, or he takes after his daddy. There s some truth in both of those. Genetics count when it comes to obesity. In 1988, the New England Journal of Medicine published a Danish study that observed five hundred forty

people who had been adopted during infancy. The research found that adopted individuals had a much greater tendency to end up in the weight class of their biological parents rather than their adopted parents. Separate studies have proven that twins who were raised apart also reveal that genes have a strong influence on gaining weight or becoming overweight. There is a significant genetic predisposition to gaining weight. Still, that does not fully explain the epidemic of obesity seen in the United States over the past thirty years. Although an individual may have a genetic predisposition to become obese, environment plays a major role as well. I like the way author, speaker, and noted women s physician Pamela Peeke said it: Genetics may load the gun, but environment pulls the trigger. Many patients I see come into my office thinking they have inherited their fat genes, and therefore there is nothing they can do about it. After investigating a little, I usually find that they simply inherited their parents propensity for bad choices of foods, large portion sizes, and poor eating habits. If your child is over weight, he or she may have an increased number of fat cells, which means your child will have a tendency to gain weight if you choose to provide the wrong types of foods, large portion sizes, and allow him or her to be inactive. But you should also realize that most people can over ride their genetic makeup for obesity by making the correct dietary and

lifestyle choices. Unfortunately, many parents forget that to make these healthy choices, it helps to surround a child with a

healthy environment.


REVIEW: I was pleasantly surprised by this cool book. It's packed with valuable information regarding healthy eating and healthy living while also being vibrantly colorful and attractive. The format looks similar to a magazine. Almost every page is accompanied with color photos. Charts, cool facts, and quizzes make the book even more interesting. Topics covered in this book include the basics of good nutrition, healthy diet for pregnant women, breastfeeding, healthy food choices for babies and toddlers, healthy habits from preschool to preteen, what to drink, supplements, exercise, toxins in food, special diets, fighting diabetes through diet, healthier food choices at fast-food restaurants, and more. It's really handy to look up the "Dr. Colbert Approved" lists of groceries and lists of healthy food items from different restaurants before heading out to get groceries or to eat out. I was glad to see a personal note from Dr. Don Colbert introducing his Best Friend (mine, too), Jesus, at the end of the book. Check out this fun, practical health & fitness guidebook for kids! By the way, my 9 year old son and 17 year old daughter enthusiastically looked through some pages by themselves :).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

DVD Review: The Way Home

Note: Please turn off my music playlist at the bottom of this page before starting the trailer.

The Way Home is based on an inspiring true story.  Randy Simpkins and his family were getting ready to go on a vacation but it turned out to be the beginning of the worst nightmare any parent could imagine.  Randy, a workaholic father left his 2 year old son, Joe, for just a few minutes on the driveway to check his work email.  Joe disappeared.  He, his wife, neighbors, search & rescue teams, and people from their church, other churches, and community united in prayer and in searching for the missing boy.  It's "the way home" for Randy's spiritual journey.  He came to realize that he needed to get back to God and his family as priorities in life.  It's a beautiful story about love, hope, faith, teamwork, and God's faithfulness. 

This is a powerful, emotional movie that touched my heart.  It brought tears to my eyes.  I could relate to how the parents must have felt.  Outstanding performances all around.  The main kid is so cute.  I enjoyed the special features, too.  The rating is PG (thematic elements and brief tobacco images).  I am pleased to see a wonderful movie that shows the importance/value of faith in God and of spending time with family (especially fathers' involvement).  Life is short; make sure you get your priorities right.  The Way Home truly hits home and hits a home run in my book :).

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Way-Home-a-MOVIE-Starring-Dean-Cain/88393118828?ref=ts

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: I'm Outnumbered!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


I’m Outnumbered! One Mom’s Lessons in the Lively Art of Raising Boys

Kregel Publications (July 2, 2010)

***Special thanks to Cat Hoort, Trade Marketing Manager, Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





Laura Lee Groves is a high school teacher. The mother of four redheaded sons, she has written for Moody Magazine, Focus on the Family’s Focus on Your Child, and Coral Ridge Ministries.


Visit the author's website.


Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (July 2, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825427398
ISBN-13: 978-0825427398

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Great Expectations

You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless.
He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.

2 Samuel 22:29–31



All moms all enter parenting with some preconceived notions. Most of us hope to have a mix of blue and pink in the household. We may have expectations for our child’s behavior or personality. We may be especially baffled by a little boy whose actions and reactions are so different from ours as a child. A valuable lesson for the mother of multiple boys is that expectations can be a trap. Expectations say, “I have this figured out. I know what will suit me, what I want, what is best for my life.” Check that verse again at the top of the chapter: “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.”

Scripture can help us through the trap of expectations, the snare of “I know best.” The prophet Samuel has some reminders for us:

• God is our lamp. He lights our way, no matter how large a flashlight we try to carry.

• God helps us advance against a troop and scale a wall. We can do it, but we don’t do it on our own.

• God’s way—not ours—is perfect. He gives us what we need, not what we expect or desire.

• If we hide in Him, He will be our shield. He will protect us.

He provides light, help, a shield, and refuge. And His way—not ours—is perfect.

Maybe You Were Expecting . . .

. . . a Girl!

Maybe you were expecting a girl the first time . . . or the second time . . . or . . . !

I know how it is. I had the “girl name” all picked out, too—four times. I haven’t given up hope, though. I’m hanging on to it for the first granddaughter. The first shattered expectation a boy mom often faces is that she’s outnumbered in this whole thing called family. With two boys and a husband in the picture, the opportunity for female companionship grows pale. Those little blue bundles tend to destroy the maternal expectations fraught with pink ribbons, lace, and tutus.

I tried to stave off those pink expectations the second time by preparing myself for another boy, figuring I’d be ready for the inevitable . . . but pleasantly surprised if a girl came along. That did help me prepare a bit. I’ve continued to repeat the mantra, “The Lord gives us what we need, and no more than we can handle” and I’ve read and reread 1 Corinthians 10:13: “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” But in the face of four boys in the house, I’ve been tempted to throw my hands up and shout, “I give up! I just don’t understand boys.” I’d grown up with one sibling, a sister, so my frame of reference didn’t exactly include this boy thing.

Many mothers face this same dilemma. Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, in Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, write that many women are challenged in mothering a son: “They feel they don’t understand boys, because they have never actually experienced the world as a boy or they have expectations about boys . . . which color the way they view their sons.”1 But we moms can’t afford not to bridge that gap and connect emotionally with our sons. In his landmark book, Bringing Up Boys, Dobson calls the disengagement of parents “the underlying problem plaguing children today.”2

Today’s mothers, though, face an additional challenge from our culture. James and Thomas write in Wild Things that it’s all too easy to “absorb cultural messages about ‘real masculinity’” and push your two- or three-year-old son away emotionally. But, they advise, “A boy needs a connection with his mother all the way through adolescence. Be sensitive about invading your son’s privacy, but separating from him prematurely will do him more harm than good.”3

Even though our blue bundles may seem like alien life forms to us, we still know that children are blessings and the Lord does give us what He wants us to have. We just have to figure out how to raise and nurture what He has given us. Although ultrasound was available to predict my first son’s gender, we decided to be surprised. We were thankful for a healthy child, though I did allow myself to think about the little girl who “might come next”—my first big mistake. But I settled in, with all my expectations and preconceived notions, to enjoy my firstborn. Babies are babies after all, and most moms learn to be happy and thankful for a healthy baby. In the beginning, though, you don’t know what you’re up against. Those little blue bundles differ greatly from the muddy ten-year-old boy with a frog in his pocket!

. . . or a Quiet, Calm Baby

The second set of expectations I dealt with related to my sense of peace, quiet, and motherhood. Perhaps the Lord was preparing me for the next twenty years, because the words peace and quiet usually don’t appear in the boy mom vocabulary. I never considered the possibility that Jonathan would be a colicky baby. In my research for this book, I found no statistics indicating that boys are more prone to colic than girls, but Susan Gilbert’s Field Guide to Boys and Girls does state that, as infants, girls as a group are more alert and more easily consoled. As infants, boys are more easily stressed. In other words, boy babies cry more often when upset and have a harder time calming down.4 Mothers of boys may be surprised at how much their sons need them.

It never crossed my mind that Jonathan would not be one of those “angel babies”—you know, one who sleeps all the time. Those expectations were shattered. Before long I discovered that he was, indeed, a colicky baby. I remember the afternoon I took him to the doctor and said, “He’s slept fifteen minutes today; that’s all. Something has to be wrong.” The doctor did a few tests and quizzed me, only to pronounce that Jonathan simply had an immature digestive system and most children grew out of it—by three months of age!

Suddenly I flashed back to a chance meeting with a mother and baby months ago. While shopping, I’d stopped to admire her beautiful baby. When I asked how old the baby was, mom replied, “Three months old, and not a day too soon.” Now I knew what she meant.

That first three months with Baby Boy #1 were the longest of my life. He was not at all the angel baby I’d expected. He cried so much, I told my husband, “I’m afraid he’s not going to be a happy child.” I could just see him frowning the rest of his life. I began to wonder if I could go through this with future babies. At one point, I held Jonathan up in front of my face and asked him, “Don’t you want brothers and sisters?”

The doctor told me I was fortunate because he slept at night and cried all day. What he failed to realize was that I had no help during the day. At night I had help in my husband, but I didn’t need it because little Jonathan was snoozing away. When my husband left for work in the morning, the wailing began. On some days I’d meet my husband at the door at five o’clock, thrust Jonathan into his arms, and go for a drive around the block or just take a walk.

Then I’d feel guilty! I had a healthy baby but I spent my time wishing away the hours with him because he just wouldn’t stop crying. I began to feel woefully inadequate as a mom. Think about it—Jonathan cried when he was alone with me but was an angel baby when Dad was there.

I knew other mothers who wouldn’t take their newborns to the church nursery until they were two or three months. Not me! I had to have a break. I knew the sweet lady there loved babies and had tons of experience, and I had no qualms about leaving him with her. When I asked her about the wisdom of leaving him when he was so fussy, she replied, “Well, honey, he’s gonna cry for you or cry for me. Might as well let him cry for me a few hours and give you a break.” Those were wise words—precious words to this mom! At least I didn’t need to feel guilty about missing church that first three months.

My expectations had crumbled so much, I couldn’t even listen to the stories of those moms who had twenty-four-hour angel babies. Such things just could not be true. Babies who ate and drifted off to sleep without a peep? Surely those mothers were lying. Things could not be so idyllic for them. They had no clue what life was like at our house. And how do you share that with friends? “My baby cries so much that I worry he’ll never be happy.” “I stand at the door at five o’clock and wait to pass him off to my hubby.”

I quickly came to the conclusion that the only person who could understand my life those first three months was someone who’d had a similar experience. For some reason, though, those moms don’t go around gushing about Early Life with Baby. That’s one reason I vowed to share those hard months with other new moms. Maybe that would make them either appreciate those golden hours with their angel baby or sympathize a bit with a friend whose expectations weren’t fulfilled.

If your expectations for motherhood include peace and quiet, keep those verses from 2 Samuel handy. You’ll need a shield and a refuge. Although Gilbert’s research sounds a bit daunting, remember her statement that boy babies, as a group, are easily stressed. That’s not to say that all boys are like boys as a group. But even if you have a quiet, placid little guy now, don’t hold too tightly to those expectations for peace and quiet. Babies grow, and toddlerhood ensues.

. . . That Boys Are Boys

My third big expectation was waiting to trip me up after we added another boy to the picture. When Jonathan hit two years old, we looked at him and said, “Oh, he’s not a baby anymore. We need a baby.” Several months later, we found we were expecting number two. It was an exciting period. Enough time had elapsed, and Jonathan had turned out to be such a charmer, the memories of colic had faded to oblivion. Besides, hey, we handled that—couldn’t we handle just about anything?

We decided against learning this baby’s gender; again, we wanted to be surprised. Yes, daddy did want a little princess, and I thought it would be so much fun to dress a little girl. And like most people, we thought, “A boy and girl would be nice,” even though we still intended to add to the family portrait. I tried to prepare myself for a boy. I figured that way I’d be pleasantly surprised if number two was a girl.

But as you already know, another boy it was. We named this one Matthew. He had the same characteristic fair skin and red hair as Jonathan, but the similarities to his brother as an infant ended there. Matthew was the angel baby. It was a whole new world. Now I knew that those other moms weren’t lying. Some babies really do eat and sleep and don’t cry much at all. That was Baby Boy #2.

I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that two children were, in some ways, easier than one. Baby Matthew had someone to watch, and Jonathan had an instant audience. This proved quite helpful. I could actually get farther than the mailbox before noon, which was unheard of with Boy #1. Of course, my standards for some things likely changed a bit, too. It’s incredible how much more quickly one can apply makeup when there’s a potential for chaos in the next room.

So far, so good, but the expectation snare was looming. By the time our second son came, we had weathered the terrible twos with the first one. We felt we’d hit upon a successful system of discipline for raising Groves boys. We had read all of Dr. Dobson’s books and watched all of his tapes, and I think we felt we had it all figured out. We thought, Oh, this is the way you handle that. We’ll do that with the second child, too. We knew how to handle rebellion with Boy #1; we’d just apply the same techniques to Boy #2. We expected that he’d react in the same way and all would be well.

We were in for a rude awakening. With Boy #2, we learned there is no magic formula. This wasn’t a quick and easy lesson. No, I had to learn it the hard way. Little did we realize that, though our reactions to disobedient behavior remained the same, this child was a different boy. His reactions to us and our discipline would be different. Aye, there’s the rub. What to do now?

Looking back, I wonder how I could have been so naïve. I’d taught public school for about nine years, had taught siblings in my classes, and I realized they wouldn’t all be the same. I’d taught exceptionally bright students and later their siblings who didn’t have the same abilities. But when it came to my own boys, who looked so much the same and were treated in the same way, I just expected their reactions to be the same as well.

There’s that word again—expected. Maybe part of the problem was a little bit of parental pride. After all, we’d hit upon a successful system and, by golly, it had worked with Boy #1. It was hard to accept that things didn’t work the same with Boy #2. A preschool teacher was instrumental in getting something through my thick maternal skull that I should have realized all along. She said to me, “God has made your sons this way on purpose. It’s not an accident. As parents, we have to thank God for the children He’s given us and ask Him to help us grow them up to be the adults He wants them to be.” It finally began to sink in that different is not worse. It just takes a little more work on Mom’s part.

That early lesson became so important later. With a houseful of kids of the same sex, the temptation to treat them all the same is great. After all, they’re boys. Discovering their differences—their own individual bent—helped me mother them more effectively. You’ll read more about that process in chapter 3, “Intentional Parenting.”

The Expectation Trap

No matter what our expectations, our infant sons manage to surprise us. Here are some common elements of the expectation trap. Watch out for them!

• Regularity. We may expect regular sleeping and eating times from our infant sons. Some babies seem to be born on a schedule while others defy it. Then there are babies who keep to a schedule for two days—just enough to fool you into thinking you have it all figured out.

• Activity. It takes a while to figure out your son’s activity level, and that can change with age. Gilbert notes that after the age of one, boys spend more time “on the move” than girls do.5 Although most boys are a bundle of energy, not all are. If you’re open to change as you determine your son’s activity level, you’ll be able to decide how best to structure his active times and sleeping times.

• Passion. Some might call this intensity. This is often hard to gauge from an infant, but some little boys seem able to concentrate on one thing, and that ability follows them throughout life. Others are easily distracted. Again, this differs with age, so don’t label your son at three months.

• Responsiveness. Some infants respond overtly to stimuli, but others are more easygoing. Some boys get more “amped up” in a crowd, while others seem to get wound up in a quiet environment. Be sensitive to your son’s responses to different settings.

• Temperament. If I had gauged my colicky firstborn by his first three months, I would have believed that he would never smile. He’s such a people person today! Don’t fall into the trap of labeling your son’s temperament or expecting him to turn out one way or another.

So how do we avoid these traps?

Trust Helps Trump Expectations

I’m convinced the answer to the expectation trap lies in trust. If we truly trust the Lord, we know His way is perfect even when we can’t see why or how. I couldn’t have imagined why He would give me a colicky son, but I had to trust that the Lord knew what He was doing. I’ve wondered—at tough times—why He gave me four sons. Why not just one little girl to take to all those mother-daughter outings I’ve had to sit out?

But I’ve learned I have to let Him be my “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Trusting in Him means staying close to Him. With a houseful of boys, my home did not exactly resemble an ivy-covered chapel. Quiet time was rare, and reading Scripture could be challenging. Here are some ways I discovered that can help you look up instead of in, even in a house hopping with boys:

• Try listening to praise music or hymns—that’s great for you and the boys.

• Socialization helps, too. When you isolate yourself, you tend to turn inward and focus on your own problems. Get out and take those boys. Take a trip to the library or the park, and enjoy God’s creation together.

• Try to get out alone once in a while, even for an hour or two. Call a friend and indulge in some girl talk, e-mail someone supportive. Don’t miss opportunities to worship.

Remember, expectations blind us to our blessings. It took me a couple more boys to learn that.

Discarding Expectations

As Boys #3 and #4 came along, I became convinced that expectations were, indeed, a trap. I didn’t shed them without struggle, but they had to go. Our third son, Andrew, was due on New Year’s Day, but he decided to make his debut on, of all days, Christmas Eve. I had the holiday all planned, and I didn’t expect this. I remember my tearful words before we left for the hospital: “I really didn’t want to have a Christmas baby,” to which my husband nervously answered, “Honey, I don’t think we have much choice here, so let’s just go.” Then three years later our fourth son, Benjamin, made an unexpected and dramatic debut via C-section—after I’d had natural deliveries with the first three. That really upset my apple cart, but this time it was my mother’s wise words that helped me pitch my expectations. She said, “Honey, you’re just paying a few extra weeks of recovery in return for a healthy boy.”

Discarding expectations allowed me to grow beyond my own fixed ideas and see what God, in His wisdom, had for me. In the raising of our four sons, I’ve discarded expectations time and again. Our first son was quite compliant to authority, a preschool dream. Matthew, on the other hand, had a bit more stubborn nature. Imagine my dismay when I arrived to pick Matthew up from preschool one day. He’d been playing in a big box, and the teacher had called him to Circle Time several times. The last time she encouraged him to do the right thing by saying, “We need to choose to obey.” Matthew calmly and matter-of-factly replied, “I choose to disobey.” I was appalled, certain that he’d be a juvenile delinquent—then his principal reminded me that stubbornness isn’t always a bad quality. She added, though, that we must teach our children to be stubborn for the right things, a lesson that has served me well as my boys have grown.

Discarding expectations is hard, but it results in growth for our sons, for us as moms, and for our relationships with our sons. Our boys need to know that even if much in the rest of their lives is performance-based, our love isn’t. We love them because they are ours and they were crafted by the Father and given to us as gifts. As we endeavor to raise our boys to be godly men, we need them to see their uniqueness and their potential. If they’re taught to be cookie-cutter boys who fit neatly within Mom’s expectations, they’ll never find out who they really are and what God’s unique purpose for them is.

Beyond My Expectations

As the boys grew and multiplied, so did the noise and the activity—beyond my expectations. Unless you had brothers, you don’t really expect the racket, the constant motion, the physicality that comes with a combination of boys. And even if you did grow up around brothers, you likely weren’t in charge of them. But noise and activity come with the territory, so one of a boy mom’s first lessons is to relinquish those expectations and free ourselves to look at life from a different perspective—a boy’s perspective. What if . . . I could climb from the top of that tree to the roof of the house? What if . . . I buried ants in mud; would they suffocate? What if . . . I could slice a banana with the ceiling fan?

Most boys will not only ask these questions, they’ll experiment to see if they can answer them. In Wild Things, James and Thomas discuss the differences between the mind of a boy and the mind of a girl. They note that on the whole, boys tend to be

• spatial instead of relational. They understand the lay of the land, for example, and how things are connected.

• aware of objects instead of faces. They’re more attracted to objects than they are to people.

• action-oriented instead of process-oriented. They’re oriented to movement rather than to emotions.

You see the differences. Moms relate to faces and emotions; our boys generally relate to things and movement. Armed with this understanding, it may be a little easier to determine why that little boy did what he did. At the very least, being aware of the general differences can make a mom aware that she needs to step back and assess her son through different eyes.

Chaos, Creativity, and Control

My best description of a household of multiple boys would be this: controlled chaos and creativity. Boys do have to be allowed to explore, to try the boundaries, to create—but with controls. All children need creative outlets, but with a boy’s penchant for movement and his innate desire to figure out the process (What makes that toaster glow?), controls are imperative. I’m not saying that chaos is preferred or necessary; it’s simply a foregone conclusion with multiple boys. Perhaps chaos isn’t exactly the right word. Maybe the word upheaval is more accurate. Upheaval can indicate anything from change to explosion . . . and both are likely in a household of boys. Upheaval and change are unsettling words for most moms. We prefer predictable and manageable.

Boys can be very manageable if you sit them in front of the mesmerizing television all day. But eventually you have to turn it off—and then you pay for it . . . at bed time and later in life. Boys need to be able to entertain themselves safely, and they need to exercise creativity to do that. Provide them with toys that will foster creativity:

• Manipulative toys. Your first purchase for your sons should be blocks. Boys need tactile toys, and they love things they can take apart and sometimes even put back together. Toys that teach cause and effect are important—turn this, and that pops out; push this, and something else happens. Remember, they’re process-oriented and love movement.

• Books. Don’t wait until your boys can read to provide books. Start them with cloth and plastic books when they’re infants. Look for books with pull tabs and doors that open, or books shaped like trucks with wheels. Try to appeal to what boys innately adore in a creative, interactive way. Reading is a challenge for many boys later, so use these early years to engender a love for books and stories.

What about control? Some moms do more controlling than anything else. If you’re guilty of that, you may need to sit back, sit on your hands if necessary, and let your boy try it on his own. You should be present, however, even if you seem to be in the background. Even though my sons are pretty much grown up, I still put on my makeup at the mirror in the front hall. That started when there were two boys in the den; I could keep an eye and ear on them more easily from that vantage point. When we looked for a house, we simply planned for the family room to be for the boys, and I wanted an adjoining kitchen. I figured I would be spending most of my time in the kitchen, and I could be there while keeping an eye on the boys. You’re the mom, and some control is obviously necessary.

Creativity can be messy, though—I won’t deny that. But keeping boys occupied and productive is worth the mess, at least temporarily. That’s why I suggest you keep a few things around for the boys:

• String

• Sticks

• Boxes

• An “art box” full of markers, stickers, paints, and so forth

You have to be careful, of course, and age-appropriate with these things. If you happen to have a boys-plus household, your girls will enjoy creating as well. Whether they work together or on separate projects, a creative outlet will be good for sons as well as daughters.

My boys still remember some of the masterpieces they crafted from such materials—boxes taped together to build a robot, string used as an imaginary dog (or lion) leash, sticks laid end to end and parallel to form a highway . . . and they all tell the story of the huge appliance box that served as a fort, a pirate ship, a skyscraper. The day it fell apart in the rain was perhaps the most fun, as they slid down a hill on the leftover pieces.

A Healthy Expectation

Although expectations can be a trap, there is one expectation you should hold on to. This is an essential piece of advice for the mothers of multiple boys. Greet each new day with the expectation that it will be a wild ride. Then you’ll be ready for anything! If for some reason things are calm at day’s end, you’ll simply be pleasantly surprised.

MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
In this book, Laura Lee Groves offers great insights, loving encouragement, and Biblically sound, practical advice to moms (and dads) who are raising boys. From one "boy mom" to another, she hopes to help moms to be intentional and successful in raising boys into Godly, responsible, respectable men. I have two sons (12 and 9) and a daughter (17). I enjoyed reading what this mom with 4 sons shared from her experience and learning from what she has learned over the years. I really appreciate all the wisdom nuggets I can get although some stuff in the book is not relevant to me and my family because we're a homeschooling family. I am very thankful that we homeschool our kids and thus they do not have to deal with many issues that school kids have to. This book covers topics like expectations, sibling rivalry, intentional parenting, education, communication, organization, media control, respect, and brothers' relationships. It also includes thoughts from the author's four sons, suggestions for dads, lists of recommended books, and special advice for single moms raising sons. If you have one or more sons, check out this valuable resource. You may be outnumbered, but you don't have to be outwitted :).

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